Early modern Archbishops’ papers

Dr Richard Palmer reports on the first phase of a new project to re-catalogue the early modern Archbishops’ papers, which began in August. The first two months of the project focused on the papers of Archbishops Sheldon, Tenison, Potter and Herring, totalling 8 volumes.

The Sheldon papers were found to comprise for the most part drafts and copies of out letters in the hand of Sheldon’s Secretary Miles Smith, relating especially to the plague and fire of London, the second Anglo-Dutch War, the survey of hospitals of which the returns are found in MS 639, and the role of the Archbishop as Visitor of All Souls’ College and Dulwich College. Many of these letters were also entered in Sheldon’s register and the new description provides correlation between these texts and also with editions in Wilkins’ Concilia.

The Tenison papers derive for the most part from the archive of S.P.G. and relate to the Church in the American colonies 1701-13. The new catalogue entry describes these important papers on an item by item basis for the first time, and reveals numerous links with the clergy, churches and events which feature in the main S.P.G. archive and the Tenison papers recently catalogued in the manuscripts series.

Map of Albemarle County

Map of Albemarle County, North Carolina, by Edward Moseley, c.1708; from the papers of Archbishop Tenison (Tenison 1 f. 122).

The Herring papers, which include some papers of his predecessors, are also described on an item by item basis for the first time, revealing letters from prominent figures such as the mathematician John Wallis (1616-1703), the architect Henry Flitcroft (1697-1769) and William Wishart (1692-1753), Principal of Edinburgh University. A large section of the papers in Herring 2 are those of the Archbishop as joint trustee, with the Bishop of London, of the fabric fund for St. Paul’s Cathedral. Many of the letters received are from Thomas Secker while Dean of St. Paul’s. When Secker became Archbishop he evidently reviewed these papers and added items from his own papers while Dean, making this an important, if complex, source of documentation. Secker’s comments on the ‘obstinate perverseness’ of Henry Flitcroft, Surveyor of  St. Paul’s, are typically forthright and mordant. The Herring papers also contain important documentation on calendar reform, the affairs of the Church of Scotland, and a dispute in Hereford Cathedral involving the composer and vicar choral William Felton. They also include the original order for the first appointment of a Principal Librarian of the British Museum (Gowin Knight in 1756). This is the original order, with the royal sign manual of George II. Herring was one of the three dignitaries charged with making the appointment.

A start was also made on the Secker papers.

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